Diane Coulson’s daughter Emily Hartley, was the youngest woman to die in prison custody in recent years. Emily took her own life at New Hall Prison in April 2016, at 21 years old. Emily had a long history of mental health issues; which she believed began at the age of 9, after grieving the death of her grandmother, whom she was very close too. Emily was under the care of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in Leeds from early adolescence.

The jury at inquest into Emily’s death was critical of the poor professionalism of prison staff, in particular the failure to act on Emily’s own fears regarding her mental health: several incidents of self-harm, as well as the discovery of a suicide file. Emily reported in seven occasions’ allegations of bullying by prison staff including a formal complaint. The prison education manager filed a report a about the way she was treated.

Despite warnings, the prison was found to have neglected the ACCT process, which is designed to care for vulnerable prisoners at high risk. Particularly there was a failure to realise that Emily was absent from the prison for over two hours; and had suspended herself from an external gate, despite the fact she was required to be monitored and checked on a half hourly basis.

Diane stated that Ruth Bundey worked tirelessly to achieve a just outcome to the inquest: “Ruth asked all the right questions, making sure things were not ignored. As result, she brought to light things that may have been swept under the carpet.”

Gareth Naylor Head of our Personal Injury department, successfully secured compensation for Diane, as a claim under the Human Rights Act.

This case was referred to our team at Harrison Bundey Solicitors, by the National Organisation Inquest.

Ruth Bundey comments

Emily’s struggle to cope with prison and her mental health issues which led to self-harm, escalated dramatically 8 days before her death. She used a ligature and showed a mental health nurse a ‘suicide file’ with an accompanying letter for ‘who finds her.’ This development, showed a dangerous move from impulsive actions to planning for death, was insufficiently shared with staff responsible for her care.

National Organisation Inquest comments

Deborah Coles, Director of Inquest stated: “This inquest is a damning indictment of a justice system that criminalises women for being mentally ill. For decades, recommendations from investigations, inquests and the Corston review have not been acted upon.”

This inquest adds to the plethora of evidence about the dangers of imprisonment for women, and the need to invest in community services that can address mental ill health and addiction.

Emily Hartley, was the youngest of 22 women to die in prison in 2016, the year that saw the highest annual number of deaths in women’s prisons on record.

Emily was imprisoned for arson, having set fire to herself, her bed and curtains. She had a history of serious mental ill-health including self-harm, suicide attempts and drug addiction. This was Emily’s first time in prison. A prison that could not keep her safe.

Read more at https://www.inquest.org.uk/emily-hartley-closing

Justice Week Justice in Focus Photography Exhibition

The Law Society are currently holding a Photography Exhibition, Justice in Focus, depicting individuals in times of crisis with difficult legal issues. The story of Ruth Bundey’s client Diane’s Daughter- Emily Hartley, is being exhibited in London, on Chancery Lane.

The exhibition celebrates the tenacity and resilience of people during crisis,  as well as the solicitors and advisors who help them. The exhibition shows the significance of access to the justice system for those with challenging difficulties.

Justice Week is a new initiative setup by the three legal professional bodies; the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.

More information can be found here

If you have been affected by any of the following information discussed, or wish to seek clarity; contact myself Ruth Bundy directly on 0113 284 5000 or alternatively email ruth.bundey@harrisonbundey.co.uk. We do not charge for initial inquiries or consultations. Before we give advice we make sure we listen carefully and understand your situation.  Do not hesitate to get in touch if you need advice.